A Google subsidiary began using drones on Friday to deliver purchases from Walgreens and FedEx customers on a trial basis in a Virginia location.
Wing, which is owned by Google's parent company: Alphabet, received federal approval earlier this year to make commercial deliveries by drone. It was the first drone company to receive permission from the United States, even before Amazon's Prime Air, which revealed its plans in 2013.
This month, the UPS parcel company also received approval from the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to fly delivery drones. The company has tested at the WakeMed hospital campus in Raleigh, North Carolina.RELATED
Wing partnered with Walgreens, FedEx and the Sugar Magnolia gift shop to test in Christiansburg, Virginia. Walgreens customers in town will be able to make purchases of a list of more than 100 items and a drone will deliver them at the door of their home.
A drone delivered a purple winter vest in the front garden of Susie Sensmeier's house that she asked for from the Dick’s Sporting Goods store. The 81-year-old woman said she never intended to see something like that.
"I didn't think I would live so long or it would happen during my life, I'm excited," he said.
The drones will begin with a flight radius of 6.5 kilometers (4 miles) from the Wing distribution center in Christiansburg. The drones are able to make a round flight of 19 kilometers (12 miles) and Wing hopes that over time it will increase its range, although he did not say when the expansion would happen.
Wing has already conducted tests in Canberra and Logan City, Australia, and in Helsinki, but Friday's flights represent the first commercial deliveries in the United States since the company received FAA certification.
Wing CEO James Ryan Burgess mentioned the speed with which drones make deliveries – sometimes minutes after ordering the product – and the environmental benefit of having fewer delivery trucks on the roads.
"We see trends in cities, including traffic and environmental sustainability," he said. "We see drone deliveries as a key part of the solutions to it."
With the increasing use of drones, concerns about privacy and security have arisen in the United States, but Burgess emphasized that Wing delivery drones do not operate with the same intention as those flown as a hobby.